Fisheye Lenses For Nikon 'F' Mount

Evaluations By Bjørn Rørslett

For rating criteria, please see the Lens Survey Page

Lens Rating Comments
Fisheye-Nikkor 8 mm f/2.8 3



(FX: D3)

Circular fisheyes may not be everybody's first choice of standard lens, but with this retrofocus construction it's at least possible to see what you're doing. So, for instance, you might avoid including your own feet in the picture! This is a big and heavy lens with an impressively sized front element, and has remained basically unchanged in the Nikon product line since 1970. Due to the enormous depth of field, focusing it visually can be quite difficult. In common with other fisheye lenses, it is prone to ghosting from intense point light sources (e.g., the sun), but flare is by and large absent since virtually all light entering this lens' 180 degrees of view are image-forming rays. This is a funny lens to use, but only the perverse of mind buys it for doing actual photography (hey, reconsider this statement, I own it myself ...). Images can be surprisingly sharp, but colour fringing may impact the peripheral areas of the image. A lens for the truly brave of heart (I like this statement better ...). Use f/8 for consistently sharp pictures.

On the D2X, I got images that were very sharp in the centre, less so towards the outer rim of the imaged circle. CA was, depending on subject and light conditions, sometimes pronounced other times nearly undetectable. You don't get a circular image on the DSLRs, the circle is chopped off top and bottom, but you do still get 180 degrees coverage on the horizontal axis.

With the D3, the entire circular image is to be seen, and pictures are rendered crisp and practically free of CA. There is, however, the ubiquituous blue fringe around the perimeter, which according to Dr. Brian Caldwell is caused by wave-lnegth dependent vignetting and is inevitable for any fisheye lens.

Fisheye-Nikkor 8 mm f/8 1.5 This was the forerunner of the fisheye 'boom' in the 60's. It isn't a retrofocus lens, though, so the camera mirror has to be locked up before the lens is mounted. This makes its quite awkward to use, and the pictorial results are frankly not impressive either. Images are noticeably soft, there is evident colour fringing, and ghosting is a big problem with it under field conditions. Said to be confined to F or F2 Nikons, it can easily be adapted to modern cameras as well, but the result is scarcely worth the efforts.
Fisheye-Nikkor 10 mm f/5.6 OP 3 Nikon produced this speciality lens having an orthographic projection formula (hence the OP designation) in very small numbers from 1968 to 1975. It should be considered a collector's item more than a picture-taking item. On a second note, I do have taken some interesting pictures with my 10 OP. Oh well, each to his own ... It is a a fixed-focus lens which extends deep into the camera throat so the mirror needs to be locked up. Framing is done through an auxiliary finder that mounts onto the rewind crank of the F or F2 camera. For other cameras you have to use the finder separately. Ghosting is an issue as with the other 180° lenses. The orthographic formula accentuates the image centre to a larger extent than the other fisheyes, in fact making it easier to get interesting pictures. There isn't any visible light fall-off towards the periphery either thanks to its unusual construction, but some colour fringing is present. An aperture setting of f/11 gives ample depth of field and quite sharp images too.
AF 10.5 mm f/2.8 G ED DX Nikkor

(D1X and D1H)







The first fisheye lens specifically made for a digital SLR, this DX lens packs stunning performance into a cute, small, and neat package. The image circle is optimised for the DX chip of the D1/D2-series cameras and the D100, and encompasses a true 180° view. The Nikon Capture 4.x or other software can transform this into a huge 120° rectilinear view, with a sacrifice in sharpness into the extreme corners of the image.

A sophisticated optical design with ED glass ensures high colour saturation and image sharpness, and field testing confirmed that Nikon has another winner on their already extensive list of lens offerings. Images are vividly colour saturated, chromatic aberration may be absent for distant scenes although some is present for close-ups, no corner fall-off and virtually no flare (of course, since all light rays entering the lens are image-forming). Ghosting is very well controlled, too. The near focus limit at 0.14m makes for some pretty strange pictures as well.

I recently downrated the 10.5 mm lens on DX format because further experience shows it is more troubled with CA than I initially observed. There seems to be some between-sample variation with respect to CA, too. Still, given judicious post-processing, you can achieve very sharp and colour-saturated images with this small fisheye lens. Nikon Capture promises to "defish" NEFs taken with the 10.5 mm, but the final result often is disappointing. Much better results can be had using Panorama Tools (ReMap module).

With the FX-format (D3) camera, CA issues seem to be kept under better control. I modified my 10.5 in anticipation of the D3's arrival, so by sawing off the built-in lens hood, it now gives a picture angle > 200 degrees. The image circle projects outside the frame, though. No big deal if you plan on making stitched panoramas or suchlike projects.

IR performance: With the Fujifilm S3 Pro UVIR, you can get very well defined IR with this lens. Filtration must be accomplished through gel filters in the rear slot holder, so in this case, using the "Live Preview" feature on the S3 camera is a definite advantage.

Fisheye-Nikkor 16 mm f/2.8 4




The faster full-frame 16 mm lens has a radically different optical formula from its predecessor, and this helps give better corner sharpness and even image illumination. Central image sharpness isn't quite as impressive as with the older lens, though. Flare is extremely well controlled and ghosting normally is negligible if the front element is kept immaculately clean. It needs to be stopped down to f/8-f/11 for giving top results. The rear-mounted filter can be removed to give better close-focusing capacity, but then the lens won't focus to infinity.
Fisheye-Nikkor 16 mm f/3.5 4.5


(D2X, D200)

The first version of the full-frame 16 mm lens delivers outstandingly sharp pictures, although the extreme "corners" (of the frame) can be a little soft with large apertures. On the D1X, this is a non-existing issue.

It is highly resistant to flare and ghosts as well, making it perfect for shooting into the sun. In fact, unless you want the sun "star" to be a blown-out blob with your digital camera, you need a lens such as the 16/3.5 to get that radiating star image so easily achieved with film-based systems. Remember to stop the aperture down to its smallest value before attempting such shots, though. Best imaging quality is delivered with the aperture set anywhere between f/5.6 and f/11, but still f/22 renders quite respectable results.



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Last Update 27 November, 2007